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Photos: Racial Tensions Continue To Flare At Mt. Greenwood Protests

By aaroncynic in News on Nov 21, 2016 3:55PM

Demonstrators once again descended on the corner of 111th Street and Kedzie Avenue over the weekend in the wake of a shooting in which an off-duty Chicago police officer shot and killed Joshua Beal earlier this month.

Various groups of mostly white residents of the neighborhood lined the street corners at the intersection to say they support police, waving “Blue Lives Matter” flags and chanting “CPD.” Meanwhile members of the Revolutionary Communist Party marched through the area and stood in the intersection, and were later joined by several other groups protesting against white supremacy, some of which later held a meeting at a nearby library to call for “healing.”

The killing of Beal by an off-duty cop—one of many in an ever-lengthening line of police shootings where the official account and account from witnesses and family members do not synch up— touched off racial tensions in Mt. Greenwood last week, but some of these tension have been boiling over for decades in the mostly white enclave on the far South Side. Subsequent protests against police violence following the shooting in the neighborhood have been extremely tense, with counter-demonstrators making threats and hurling racial slurs.

This happened once again at Sunday’s demonstration, though a heavy police presence at the barricades surrounding the intersection kept most of the groups physically, though not verbally, separated from each other.

Tio Hardiman, President of Violence Interrupters Incorporated, said that he and members of his group came to the demonstration to address the blatant racism that reared its head during the previous demonstrations.

“This is the year 2016. Mount Greenwood or no other community should have such racist views of black people,” said Hardiman. “This is bigger than a lot of people understand. You’re not going to get rid of racism overnight, but you’re going to continue to challenge the people involved in racist thoughts. Chicago has a 100 year history of police misconduct and excessive force. Even though this isn’t about the police today—it goes to show you how people feel about African Americans in particular.”

“This community is polarized,” he added. “When African-American people come over here, the demon of racism shows its face.”

While the majority of the larger chants from Blue Lives Matter demonstrators on the sidewalks were limited to ones that praised Chicago police or were at least free from overt racial expletives, some off the street still hurled racial epithets at those in the street.

“Go back to Africa or wherever you’re from,” shouted one man from the sidelines. “They’re a bunch of assholes that are going to tear up the neighborhood,” said another, who then used the n-word as another man pulled him back and led him away.

While the bulk of demonstrators kept to the intersection at 111th and Kedzie, a smaller group carrying signs that read “let’s talk” marched away to a nearby library for a community discussion between city officials, residents, activists and faith leaders over pizza.

“The challenge of what's happening at 111th is it is two sides yelling at each other - they are not hearing each other, they are not trying to bridge the divide,” said Chicago Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp, speaking to reporters alongside alderman Matt O’Shea and Pastor Bishop James Dukes of the Liberation Christian Center.

“This is not a cookie-cutting, kumbaya meeting in here,” said Dukes. “This is a real meeting between different cultures that are trying to get an understanding of each other and still survive.”

While a good start, it will take more than a single community meeting to even begin to heal the racial divide in the area.

Rev. Shaunte' Brewer of the Prayer Tabernacle Church however, who lives in Beverly, the neighborhood next door, was hopeful meetings like the one at the library could begin a dialogue.

“It’s a complex situation that’s something that’s been growing for years...this wasn’t a problem that happened overnight...some of the Mt Greenwood residents are mad at the protests saying ‘why are they here’ and thinking everything revolves with Mr. Beal, but that’s not the case. We’re here in response to how the family was treated after. We’re here because people like me saw those live videos and were disgusted by both sides.”